Stinging nettle

1:17 p.m. on August 7, 2012 (EDT)
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This stuff lives in the lowlands around here.  I used to hate it as a kid and I know its super usefull as far as plants go but has anyone else developed an immunity to it?

I recently went on a trip with my daughter and the stuff didn't sting my hands or arms when I tried show my #1 what it does to you.  As a matter of fact I don't think it has stung me after repeated exposures for several years now.  I wonder if I am getting immune, contracting leprosy or if all the nettles around here are just weak. 

Has anyone else developed any resistance to this prickly plant?




1:27 p.m. on August 7, 2012 (EDT)
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There are a couple possibilities that I see: 

> You aren't sensitive to it anymore, for some unknown reason

> They were young plants that hadn't developed notable spines yet

> They are one of the Nettle subspecies that don't have many spines even when mature

> It is another plant altogether that looks like Nettle. 

Next time you run into some of the plant that isn't effecting you, you might see if someone else will volunteer to be a victim to see it it just you. Also, I'd love to see some photos of the whole plant and close-ups, too. There are some nettle family plants in the western states that we don't have here in the east, so I am curious. :)

Tipi and Patman sparked my interest to properly familiarize myself with all the specific variations. I'm stumped by one that is in my yard at the moment, as it doesn't have notable stinging spines, yet at least, and has the alternate leaf pattern of Wood Nettle. But the flower tendrils are different, and I haven't been able to make a definite ID. 

1:46 p.m. on August 7, 2012 (EDT)
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I would love to see some photos too.

Stinging nettle is like the Sumac the sense that some of it is harmless and some is not?

Mike G.

9:46 a.m. on August 8, 2012 (EDT)
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I deffinately know what nettle is so its not an ID problem.  I am guessing that our nettles here, in the semi-desert heat, aren't as strong as the jungle variety I grew up with.

I read up online that resistance to nettle is not unknown. 

Its been a long time since I have had a problem with these things.  I'm sure that my more sensitive areas are not resistant to stings but it does seem that my lower legs and arms don't react to these like they used to.  I don't forsee flogging myself with nettles to confirm my idea I'm just glad they don't bother me like they used to. 


10:17 a.m. on August 8, 2012 (EDT)
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Oh, my asking for photos wasn't meant to doubt that it is a Nettle, I just would love to educate myself and help determine specific ID. Until yesterday, I wasn't aware there are so many different types of Nettle, nor nearly identical look-a-likes. 

12:25 p.m. on August 8, 2012 (EDT)
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yeah it is hard to figure....I luckily have little to no reaction to poison ivy (but huge reaction to poison Sumac???)

But those nettles a few weeks ago in the Tennessee Citcio wilderness lit me up. It burned like fire against my lower legs. Just barely touching them caused pain.



1:24 p.m. on August 8, 2012 (EDT)
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You may indeed have a resistance, or it may be another nettle species or plant that looks similar. The hairy hedge nettle will not sting, but it doesn't grow this far west. Also, rubbing upward on the stalk or outward on the leaves will cause the hairs to flatten and you won't get stung. Excellent eating and they make wonderful tea.

4:29 p.m. on August 8, 2012 (EDT)
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Then of course there's Horse Nettle with the little yellow berry.  NOT EDIBLE.


4:41 p.m. on August 8, 2012 (EDT)
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Yeah, that guy is a deadly nightshade, with berries that look like a tiger striped tomato. DO NOT EAT!

2:30 a.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Stinging nettle is not in the Anacardiaceae (sumac, poison ivy, cashew, and mango) family, but in the Urticaceae, closely related to figs and mulberries of all things --. some botanists would put them all in the same family. We have Urtica dioica here in Norway as well --  along our fence line for example and sometimes mixed in with rapsbberries making picking a painful experience. The sharp stinging hairs are actually made of silica glass -- the tip breaks off and the rest injects a poison cocktail that includes organic acids and histamines (according to one of my sources anyway). My own reaction to nettles has always been short-term, only about 15 minutes or so. I don't have any good pictures of my own but a Google image search will turn up dozens, including close-ups of the stinging hairs.

6:13 a.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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An interesting sideline to this is the story of Milarepa, a 12th century Yogi who lived as a hermit in caves and ate nettles almost exclusively.  Here's a neat link---

10:57 a.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Red makes a good point - nettles inject an acid that burns tissue.  In other words, it hurts because of a chemical reaction. Most ivys produce an oil that creates an allergic reaction. What I'm thinking is that it's possible to get over an ivy allergy, but not a nettle reaction?

5:23 p.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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It might be that, b/c I regularly take antihisitmine for other alergies that my histamine reaction to nettles is reduced. 

I'm not ruling out leprosy though ;) My friend has an armadillo handbag. 


8:50 a.m. on August 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Growing up on in British Columbia we had lots of stinging nettles around. I haven't been stung in years, mainly due to vigilant avoidance.

A good remedy when stung is to take the leaves of a Foxglove (Digitalis) plant and rub it on the sting, it has always worked for me. The entire Foxglove plant is toxic, seeds, leaves and flowers, so DO NOT INGEST.

I have also been told that burdock leaves will take the sting away but I have never tried that.

10:01 a.m. on August 13, 2012 (EDT)
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As an aside, burdock root is a great edible though it helps to have a shovel to remove.  I used to eat it all the time back in NC.


9:34 a.m. on August 14, 2012 (EDT)
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I remember when I was a kid we rubbed all kinds of things (fern roots/fiddleheads were popular, as was dirt) on nettle stings to make them go away, just about all of them worked.

I think that the time it took for the pain to go away was similar to the time the things took to quit hurting naturally but it made me feel like I wwas doing something to help out so I felt better. 

2:41 p.m. on August 14, 2012 (EDT)
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If I remember correclty from childhood curiosity, the ripe berry on the horse nettle stinks really bad.  I have since avoided it. 

2:44 p.m. on August 14, 2012 (EDT)
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And then there's False Dead Nettle which is a mint with a square stem and grows in everyone's yard.


3:45 p.m. on August 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Wow, I didn't know it's name, nor that it was edible. I had noticed the square stem, but had never given it any thought, as it is so common and pervasive in early spring. I will have to try it. 

June 24, 2018
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